Break It Yourself
In many ways, Chicago born singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird is like an Olympic gymnast; they consistently perform so flawlessly and gracefully that you begin to take their unbelievable talent for granted. Thus, the virtuosic violinist and former Squirrel Nut Zipper has made his own unique magical blend of folk for a decade and a half making consistently good to great records with his hyper-literate songwriting, vivid vocals, aggressive guitar play, pioneering violin style, and unrivaled whistling ability making a sound that can only be described as his own. On top of all this, the one man band loops it all together live to make for quite the sight, which has now been captured on screen in the concert documentary film, Andrew Bird: Fever Year debuting this spring around the country. If the film isn’t enough, Bird now releases Break It Yourself, his 12th solo album to date, which is a true triumph and ranks as his most sophisticated album to date.
Break It Yourself opens on a nostalgic note in “Desperation Breeds”, a song that sounds like tuneful ghosts from the 20s leaking out of a gramophone. This sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which is perhaps his most subdued and introspective. The song also indicates why Bird ranks among the best ever in terms of interplay between his voice and his instrument, playfully doing call and response, interweaving the two up and down the scale, harmonizing one with the other, and completely wigging out with both in the final two minutes of the song. “Danse Carribe” follows and starts delicately before springing into a full on Gypsy jig with pizzicato strings and sweeping orchestration that might be something fellow alternative folkster Beirut might pull off. Bird then fades into “
Most albums nowadays are heavily frontloaded, so that’s why it’s especially great to see that Break It Yourself’s final third is its best. “Orpheo Looks Back” is particularly brilliant as it begins with a fury of violin and keeps you off balance with its off-kilter rhythm and chaotic, jumbled arrangements, yet the song stays upbeat and just plain pretty. “Sifters” is another beautiful song that would probably be best fit for staring at the starry sky on a still night or for an introspective evening. “Hole In The Ocean Floor” is eight minutes of stringed splendor with Bird’s stirring vocals bathing in an ocean of sound.
In many ways Bird hasn’t changed; he is still singing about near death experiences and catastrophes with the help of the nearest thesaurus, and he is still combining his usual instrument ingredients, but Break It Yourself in many ways feels like a new kind of record for Bird. The intricacies of Break It Yourself are no doubt what make it so fun to dive into, as it doesn’t have the dynamic pop songs of past albums like “Fake Palindromes”, “Oh No”, or “Fiery Crash”, but there is a level of complexity in the melodies, harmonies, and song structures themselves that make Break It Yourself more rewarding with each listen. So while the Break It Yourself may not smack you over the head the first time you listen to it, give it some time to sink in. The best kind of records do.
Can’t Miss: “Orpheo Looks Back”, “Hole In The Ocean Floor”, “Give It Away”
Can’t Hit: none
To read the full version of my review, check it out over at RELEVANT.